Nova Scotia's flag was proudly displayed at the top of the world last week, when a man from Falmouth, N.S., completed his two-month journey to the summit of Mount Everest.
"It was amazing," said Kevin Walsh from Kathmandu on Sunday. "It's been a lifelong dream — something that I've thought about and envisioned for a long time."
Walsh, 55, reached the summit on May 23 at 9 a.m. NPT.
The dentist started climbing as a hobby about 15 years ago, but has been interested in climbing Mount Everest ever since he was a child.
It wasn't until he climbed Denali in Alaska eight years ago that he felt comfortable taking on the highest point in the world above sea level.
"Since then I've done a few other climbs and [Mount Everest] was the ultimate goal, but I wanted to make sure that I checked off the proper skills and knowledge," he said.
Walsh signed up for the Mount Everest trek about two years ago, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
He said he used that time to train in the Annapolis Valley and research what to expect.
Climbing Mount Everest has become increasingly problematic in recent years, as climbers often leave behind mounds of trash, inexperienced climbers cause overcrowding and some even die atop the mountain.
Depsite this, the Khumbu Valley beneath the summit relies heavily on tourists and Sherpa culture.
"They were really devastated missing last year's season, so they welcomed us with open arms," Walsh said.
Although the pandemic has affected tourism industries around the world, it hasn't stopped climbers from visiting Mount Everest this spring.
A total of 408 foreign climbers were issued permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpa guides.
This has led to a recent outbreak of COVID-19 on the mountain. At least 100 people have been infected this month.
Walsh said he considered the risk of COVID-19 before he left for Nepal at the end of March.
He had already had his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and he felt comfortable with the safety protocols his guiding company had in place.
Temperatures were checked daily, masks were worn and his trekking team of 17 people didn't socialize with other groups.
"We could have postponed to next year, but there was so much planning that had gone into it — the training, the timing, the time off work, arranging for people to fill in — that it just seemed like the right thing to do," he said.
He said no one on his team was infected with COVID-19 while on the mountain.
'Top of the planet'
Walsh documented his progress on his Facebook page. He said he received support from friends, family and even strangers.
"I think it gave people something to focus on during COVID," he said. "The positive messages — that really helped. Every step that got hard or difficult, I would think back and say, 'I can't let these people down,' so it really helped motivate me."
Walsh said when he reached the summit, the sky was blue, the wind was minimal and the sun was beaming.
"I teared up a few times. It was very emotional," he said. "To have arrived at the summit — at the top of the planet — is something I'll never forget as long as I live."
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